The addition "legend" is used quite inflationary. Directorial legends here, music legends there, film legends over there - legends as far as the eye can see. A man who has honestly earned this title by shooting more than 100 films is celebrating his 80th birthday today, August 17th. Because in addition to quantity, the name Robert De Niro also stands for quality, with very few exceptions. And that's what makes a legend after all.
For many later stars, the nursery does not yet allow any conclusions to be drawn about their career path. But it was clear that De Niro would not become a welder or car mechanic. His father Robert De Niro Sr. earned money and moderate recognition throughout his life as an expressionist painter, his mother Virginia also painted and was a poet. Of course nobody could have guessed that the reserved boy, who was called "Bobby Milk" because of his paleness, would one day mature into one of the greatest character mimes in the world. Even though he first appeared on stage at the age of ten, in a school production of "The Wizard of Oz" - as the cowardly lion.
Eventually, at 16, De Niro dropped out of school to pursue an acting career with the blessing of his artistic family. The boy with great ambitions wanted to become like Marlon Brando (1924-2004). However, it was not until 1970 that he got his first serious role. De Niro, by then no longer a boy but a 27-year-old man, got hold of himself in Brian De Palma's (82) black comedy "Hi, Mom!" his first leading role. It only took four more years until the first Oscar.
As a child, De Niro raved about Marlon Brando, and he was literally allowed to follow in his footsteps in The Godfather II. In Francis Ford Coppola's (84) mafia masterpiece, he plays the young version of Don Vito Corleone and as a gangster boss he was so enthusiastic that the golden boy was awarded as best supporting actor as a reward. From this milestone at the latest, De Niro became an integral part of the screen - until today.
Especially in the 70s and 80s, De Niro played in a different acting league. Just a few films that were made during this creative period: "Taxi Driver", "Going through Hell", "Once Upon a Time in America", "Brazil" and "The Untouchables". For the boxing drama "Wie ein Rager Bull", which was released in 1980, in which his trainer attested that he had what it takes to become a professional boxer, he received his second and so far last Oscar. For the part as Jake LaMotta (1922-2017), De Niro took boxing lessons for a year and later put on 30 kilos of fat in a very short time.
But aspiration and success do not always go hand in hand. Many of the works already mentioned and also later films with De Niro were indeed critics, but only to a limited extent audience favorites. For example "Awakening", "Wag the Dog" or "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein", in which De Niro is hardly recognizable as a disfigured Frankenstein monster.
From the turn of the millennium, De Niro increasingly proved his comedic talent. In the film "Reinenervesache" based on his prime role as godfather (in it he plays a mafia boss who ends up with a psychiatrist and suffers from erectile dysfunction). Just a year later he made family life hell in "My Bride, Her Father and I" Ben Stiller (57).
In the drama field, of course, he was still seen, and was nominated for an Oscar (supporting actor) around 2012 thanks to his role in "Silver Linings". Other roles in recent years, in which De Niro has increasingly advanced to become a well-known supporting actor due to age, have been in "American Hustle" and "Joy - Everything But Ordinary". In 2019 and at the age of 76, De Niro even celebrated his biggest commercial hit to date - albeit in a rather small role: The extremely dark comic film "Joker" with Joaquin Phoenix (48) in the title role flushed over a billion US Dollar One - the only film with De Niro that has so far been able to break this barrier.
De Niro is as popular as ever. Martin Scorsese's (80) new work "Killers of the Flower Moon" will be released this year with him and many other stars like Leonardo DiCaprio (48). But in the past few months it was mainly his private life that caused a stir – in the most opposite way possible.
In May of this year, and at the modestly advanced age of 79, De Niro became a father for the seventh time. He welcomed daughter Gia Virginia into the world with his partner Tiffany Chen. But the great joy about the addition to the family was followed only a short time later by a tragic stroke of fate: De Niro's grandson Leandro De Niro Rodriguez, the son of his daughter Drena (51), died in July of this year at the age of only 19. A little later it was reported that the tragedy was apparently caused by adulterated tablets.
What the events in the life of the (legendary) superstar always show: Both privately and professionally, De Niro still has a lot to do - and that even 80 is just a number.